Review – Vader Faces Technological Terror in Star Wars: Darth Vader Annual #2
TECHNOLOGICAL TERROR – DARTH VADER intends for the Empire to hold no secrets for him — or from him. Which means it is time to dig into the pet project of GOVERNOR WILHUFF TARKIN and ORSON KRENNIC: the massive battle station being built on GEONOSIS. Opportunity arises when the project is hindered by sabotage from unknown forces. THE EMPEROR calls on his dark enforcer to root out the source of treachery that threatens to destabilize the Empire’s galactic ascent.
Written by Chuck Wendig
Art by Leonard Kirk
Double Vader and Tarkin, double the fun! Last week, Charles Soule had the two hunting each other in the Bad Ground, this week Chuck Wending gives us Vader and Tarkin trying to outsmart each other in the Technological Terror.
When this issue opens we see Tarkin arriving at the Imperial Security Complex on Scarif, surprising the local officers. In the data vault, Tarkin finds Vader looking for the information on the Project Stardust. Tarkin is not happy as Vader has no authorization to be there. Say what you will about Tarkin, but the Governor has guts. He baits Vader about his Force powers while the Sith Lord imagines all the ways he could kill him.
Tarkin contacts the Emperor who informs Vader that he falls under Tarkin’s authority. He has to go to Geonosis and root out the traitors who are threatening the project. On Geonosis, Vader is met by Orson Krennic. Their lives are immediately threatened by another sabotage, but Vader saves Krennic’s life.
The Geonosian project was targeted several times, suggesting the inside job. Good old Orson doesn’t miss a chance to accuse Tarkin of treachery, but he has not proof. At the Petranaki Arena, where he once fought for the Republic, Vader meets loyalty officer Sid Uddra. Canon connoisseurs will recognize her name as the mentor of one Sinjir Rath Velus who underwent violent training under her tutelage (Aftermath trilogy). Uddra has profiles on both Tarkin and Krennic and doesn’t believe either of them are involved in the sabotages. While they are both ambitious, hate each other, and desire to usurp each other, they love the Empire and the power it gives them. They both want the project to succeed and then appropriate that success for themselves. Uddra provides Vader with another interesting name – Galen Erso. While he never visited Geonosis, he receives shipments from it.
On Coruscant, Vader investigates Galen’s empty office and discovers two valuable clues, kyber crystals and a Geonosian egg. According to Krennic, an egg was sent to Erso either in hope he wouldn’t notice or in hope he would help the Geonosians.
Vader leads a contingent of Death Troopers to Korakami Mound, where inside they find the Geonosian Queen with her offspring as well as proofs of sabotage. Vader and his troops destroy them all.
Back on Tarkin’s Carrion Strike, Vader informs Tarkin that the situation was dealt with. He also lets him know that he uncovered the truth behind his secret project due to the kyber crystals he found in Erso’s office. Project Stardust is the planet killer. Tarkin believes Vader is jealous of the Death Star because he wants to be the Emperor’s most terrifying weapon. Vader predicts that if Tarkin gets too invested into this project, it could become his tomb.
On planet Alpinn in the Outer Rim, Lyra Erso is collecting crystals for her husband when she is approached by unknown droid from an unknown sender who informs her that she and her husband work on a superweapon that will be responsible for deaths of countless galactic citizens. When the droid self-destructs, Lyra alerts her pilot to prepare the ship – she thinks her and Galen may need to run.
Chuck Wendig’s first foray into Star Wars comics – an adaptation of The Force Awakens – was not especially successful as it was essentially a scene by scene retelling. It didn’t add anything to the story like some other movie adaptations did (Rogue One, The Last Jedi). I am happy to report that his second attempt is far better at filling us in on one of the most important relationships in the galaxy, while at the same time connecting various canon threads.
The previous canon material (Tarkin, Dark Lord of the Sith) showed us the growing respect between Tarkin and Vader, and now this comic shows us the more adversarial side of their relationship. While it is difficult to exactly pinpoint the timeline, it is safe to say that the main part of this comic occurs at least some time before the event’s of the Tarkin novel (set approximately 14 years BBY) where Vader is already cognizant of Death Star and Tarkin is promoted to Grand Moff, a few years before the beginning of Rogue One. The respect that will develop between them isn’t present yet as Tarkin openly mocks Vader’s beliefs and Vader’s contempt for Tarkin is palpable even through the mask. I have always liked Tarkin as a character and never questioned his personal bravery, but it’s also good to occasionally see his petty, arrogant side. I also never questioned his intelligence, which leads me to conclude he only baits Vader because he is protected by the Emperor. Leonard Kirk’s art conveys his self-satisfying smirk so well that it almost has you wishing Vader could wipe it from his face.
Judging by the final scene in the comic, the erosion of Vader’s absolute devotion to the Emperor might have started this early in the timeline, because I have no doubts the self-destructing droid was sent by Vader to stall Project Stardust. This version of Vader is, however, still not the laser-focused Sith we know from the original trilogy. His anger still runs hot, felt by all including Tarkin, and he is still very much haunted by his past.
The first Darth Vader Annual gave us the character of Queen Trios which grew to become one of the more fascinating characters in new canon. Wendig brings his character Uddra to the comics and I wonder if future comics will continue to expand her role. I am always fascinated by the characters that seem to be on the same wavelength as Vader. Her connection to Sinjir, one of my favorite Aftermath characters, does not hurt either.
While the story isn’t essential, it is a good character study of two people that will become respected allies and the Emperor’s most important non-technological assets. The new canon has helped further paint the picture of the Empire’s rise and fall, and Technological Terror is a worthy addition. If you are someone who still hasn’t tried Star Wars comics, this one shot might be a good starting point.
THIS ISSUE GETS 8/10 STARS.